"I am going to give you a treasure," I told Sid last week. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life. I had been waiting for this — longing to hand over the family heirloom to the next generation. I had to also wait for the right timing. Too early would have meant Sid not quite understanding the enormity of the responsibility he would have had to shoulder. It somehow seemed perfect now. Sid would soon be seven and that sounded right.
The light brown chequered suitcase with its old fashioned locks, had been safely put away for the last 14 years. I had put it away in the storage area and had almost forgotten about it till last month. We were moving to a new place and when the packers pulled the box out and dusted it, memories came flooding back.
It didn't seem long ago now. The box, almost an integral part of my childhood, was originally not meant to be the treasure trove it had turned out to be. It was mum who gave it its unique stature. Those days, there was this box and its companion, a blue box. The blue box, apparently, had been on one journey too many and, over time, had its lid coming off the hinges. So, mum, had benevolently given us the blue box to put away our toys which consisted of a doll with a broken nose, a few train tracks, and a cute plastic cat. As far as I remember, the brown box had always been in perfect condition and was the repository of some of mum's most precious possessions.
As time went by, the box was first stowed away inside a cupboard where she kept some of her rarely-used clothes. Then, if my memory serves me right, I had once found the same box in the attic it's contents were some old used clothes.
I am not quite sure when mum decided to put away all our precious comic books inside the brown box. The books bore our names, written in our kiddish handwriting. Some of them had their front covers reinforced with colourful sheets of newspaper. The others had torn pages mainly due to wear and tear. Some pages seemed to have taken a deeper shade of brown with time and most had lost their crisp feeling to the touch they didn't rustle when I turned the pages and I had to be careful to turn each page gently. The best part however was that I could read every single word on each of those pages and they all still made sense.
As I sat, looking at the box and reliving my entire childhood, I wondered if I could ever spare those books to anyone else? They seemed so much a part of my own self. I watched my son, Sid, now all grown up. Will he like it? Will he read them? And, most importantly, will he take care of them, I wondered.
Mum had remarked, handing me the box, 14 years ago, "This is your treasure. Hand it over to your kids, if you think they deserve it." As the thought crossed my mind, I watched Sid. He was reading Astrosaurs, a series by Steve Cole. As he struggled to keep a torn page in place, he asked: "can you please fix this page mum?" I guessed then that Sid deserved it. I was pretty certain he could read those comic books, enjoy them and also take care of them.
Later that day, I led Sid to the box. I showed him the comics of my childhood days Richie Rich, Archie, Phantom, Superman, Indian mythology and so many more. Of course, Sid is happy he has got a lot of books. He hasn't stopped thanking me. But, the one thing he cannot understand is why I call it a treasure!
Sudha Subramanian is an independent journalist based in Dubai.